The Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: Spectacular State Number 2!

State number 2 on Appalachian Trail NOBO thru-hike is North Carolina. When you see that sign that reads, “NC/GA” there is no feeling like it. You’ve finished one state and get to begin another. If you want to read about the moment I crossed into North Carolina read my previous Appalachian Trail in Georgia post. To read my Appalachian Trail in North Carolina journal continue on.

the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Facts about the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

  • How many miles of the Appalachian Trail are in North Carolina?: 96.4 miles
  • There are 217.8 miles that jump back and forth over the North Carolina and Tennessee borders.
  • Elevation Range: 1725′-5498′ feet
  • Franklin, NC is one of the best AT trail towns in North Carolina.

Friday, April 2, 2021
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 12
Location: Bettys Creek Gap
Start/End Time: 9:30/4:30
Weather Conditions: Cold and Windy

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

It took me a good hour to get out of my sleeping bag it was so cold this morning. With as many layers as I had on when I went to bed last night you’d think I would have been warm, but no. At times I was cold. Other times I was too hot. And several times I was sweaty. And at times Will and Hatter were huddled so close to me I couldn’t move. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep.

From when I woke up to when I left camp it was about 2 hours and I really wasn’t feeling it.

That feeling lasted all day. I mostly walking by myself and in the afternoon I listened to the Office Ladies Podcast and my audio book Master of the Reveals.

The terrain wasn’t as bad today, just some rolling hills way up on the ridge line. However it was windy and cold most of the day. While I didn’t think about quitting I definitely wasn’t having any fun and would have been happy to stop walking and set up my tent early on.

In total I did 11.3 miles which is good. I need to make doing 11+ mile days a regular thing. Then slowly increase that mileage over the next month. I’d be really happy if I could do 15 miles every day by the end of April.

Dinner happened and there was a fire, but I’m already freezing so I’m going to bed. It’s going to be another cold night, wish me luck!

Saturday, April 3, 2021
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 13
Location: Winding Stair Gap
Start/End Time: 8:30/5:15
Weather Conditions: Cool to start the day, then warm and sunny

Getting out of bed this morning wasn’t as bad as yesterday because I didn’t freeze my ass off last night. I was toasty warm in my sleeping bag inside my tent. Plus, Betty Creek Gap was covered with rhododendron which blocked out the little bit of wind there was.

As usual I was the first one up and out but also as usual the guys will catch up with me later; they always do. However it was a little bit of a sad day as well and Nick we’re pushing on to do about 17 miles. I probably won’t see them again.

I was just 3 miles away from the 100 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail but damn was it a hard 3 miles up, up, up! It even involved a scramble up some rocks, so I put my hiking poles away and went for it. I may have cursed the tall people that made the big makeshift steeps at the beginning. But then above the trees I saw the fire tower, and knew I was almost there.

When I reach the top I was the only one there it was really nice to have it all to myself for just a few minutes. While the top of the fire tower wasn’t open I did climb up as far as I could to see the amazing view. Well some of the views earlier in my hike were foggy I was really happy I got to see this one was on a clear day.

When Hatter reached the top he had received some trail magic from a guy by the road and gave me a can of Coke. It really hit the spot!

The rest of the morning was mostly downhill and not extremely strenuous. I did however have to take off of my layers as it got increasingly warm during the day.

For lunch I stopped at a small creek near the Long branch Shelter. Hatter showed up soon after and we enjoyed a nice lunch. As we were wrapping up a bunch of hikers, including Goat’s brother and the hiker I met the other day who knew who I was (his trail name is Legs), showed up. It was nice to get to chat with them for a little while.

However, it reminded me of why I enjoy hiking most of the time by myself as there were so many people. It’s not that I’m against people, I just like the quiet of the woods during the day and chatting with everyone at camp at night.

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Then at Rock Gap, there was even more trail magic. This is where I met Charlotte and Mandy. They were the ones giving out the trail magic and they made me a grilled cheese sandwich. They were running out of bread and cheese when all the other hikers that got there before me remembered I was coming and asked them to save me a sandwich. It felt really nice to be remembered.

I got to chatting with them, and they had heard of WHOA! They asked about the Curvy Kili Crew and we’re really surprised when I told them that I was the GAL for that trip. Charlotte and I chatted about working in the outdoor industry and how it’s one of her passions to do it full-time someday. It was like I had met a kindred spirit, and I’m sad I didn’t get more time to connect with her and Mandy.

With tomorrow being Easter Sunday I did my best to find a shuttle out of Wayah Gap, but didn’t have any luck, which is understandable. As a result I’ll be setting up camp at Winding Stair Gap for the night. I’m staying at Chica and Sunsets Hostel tomorrow night and they’ll pick me up around 10:30 in the morning. It will be my first zero day, which I wasn’t planning on but maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me I need a day off.

When I got to Winding Stair Gap Hatter was there and asked if I wanted a hot dog! The answer is always yes! I feel like I’ve hit the trail magic jackpot today. First the Coke, then the grilled cheese sandwich, and now two hotdogs. What more can a hiker want?

Hatter and I parted ways today as he didn’t need to go into town. It was kind of sad, and I’m definitely going to miss him.

I’m stealth camping at Winding Stair Gap, my first time doing this. It’s exciting and a little scary at the same time.

Sunday, April 4, 2021
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 14
Location: Chica and Sunsets Hostel
Start/End Time: 
Weather Conditions: Cool to start the day, then warm and sunny

Waking up to do nothing today was a great feeling. I didn’t realize how tired my body was, and I’m glad I’m taking a zero day today. For those of you who don’t know a zero day is when you hike 0 miles to rest or enjoy whatever trail town you’re in. Unfortunately it’s Easter and everything is gonna be close because I’m in the south.

I took my time packing up and Sunsets was there at Winding Stair Gap to pick me up at 10:30. He was super nice and I found out that me and his partner, Chica, have done the Colorado Trail, the Camino de Santiago, and the AT.

The hostel is amazing!! From this day on I will compare every other hostel I stay at during my time in the AT to Chica and Sunsets! There is a full kitchen for guest use, self-service laundry, loaner clothes, an amazing hiker box, and it was also quiet. Plus, in the bathroom they had everything a hike I could ever want! I’m talking floss mouthwash razors shaving cream everything. I shave my armpits today and I feel like $1 million.

I went through my food and organize my pack a bit more I found a compression Sac my sleeping bag fits in so I’m going to give that a try hoping it will make packing each morning easier. Packing up my gear in the morning is the bane of my existence right now.

After I had some chill out time sunsets brought linger to the Hostel. We hit it off right away. Within an hour of his arrival we were in Sunsets car and he was taking us to the lazy Hiker brewery in downtown Franklin.

I obviously got a flight so I can try as many beers I could and I eat an amazing burger from the food truck on premises. Linger and I swap some stories and realize we have a lot in common. We signed the lazy Hiker 2021 through hike or banner and decided to walk to the other end of town to the other brewery, Currahee. This brewery has better beer was located right on the river and the bartender, Dani, is my new best friend. 

When we finished our beers we were hungry so we went to McDonald’s. The doors were locked so we ended up walking through the drive-through. Because we were a little tipsy we thought this was hilarious. The staff didn’t bat an eye.

We eat our food in the park and try to hitchhike back to the Hostel: no one picked us up.

Before bed I had a really great call with Allison and we got to catch up on all things WHOA and my thru-hike. Can’t wait to hike with her at some point during this trip.

Monday, April 5, 2021
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 15
Location: Rocky Bald
Start/End Time: 10/4:45
Weather Conditions: Cool to start then really hot, ok not really hot, but hot enough.

Breakfast at Chica and Sunsets Hostel is served at seven in the morning. I was exhausted when I woke up, but breakfast was super fun! I got to know them a little bit better and their continental breakfast is amazing! If you go into Franklin try to get a spot at this hostel!

Shortly after breakfast Sunsets dropped me off in town at the post office. I was able to pick up the package from my nanny family but again Megan’s package was nowhere to be found. Hopefully I will get it someday but today’s not that day.

I met a few other hikers whose shuttle was coming to pick them up at the post office. They said they were going to the gap just outside of town. I asked if they had space in the shuttle and they said yes.

However, the gap just outside of town was not Winding Stair Gap that I need to go to, it was Wayah Gap, 10 miles up the trail…oops. The shuttle driver offered to take me to Winding Stair Gap for $20 but I’m trying to be frugal with my money so, whatever. I figured I did the 8.8 mile approach trail and that kind of makes up for the miles that I lost.

It seems to be a trend in North Carolina but I felt like all I did today was walk uphill. I ended up running into some 20-something hikers and surprised Goat because somehow I ended up in front of him.

One of the highlights today was Wayah Bald. With an amazing view and a stone tower it was a great reward for a bunch of early morning uphill. When I arrive there there were at least a dozen other hikers enjoying the sunshine and resting. I stayed for a bit, but they’re already an established crew and a bit clicky.

I spent most of the day walking by myself listening to podcasts and audiobooks. After stopping for lunch I listened to a bit of music.

While everyone ended up passing me they all stopped at Cold Spring shelter and I continued on for two more miles to get to the top of Rocky bald. 

Right before I got to the shelter I met this woman who was having a tough time on the trail. She seemed to be in her late 40s/early 50s. I told her my plans to sleep up on Rocky Bald and she was very concerned about how cold it was going to be up there. Turns out she’s from Florida and has been freezing the entire time. I explained to her that I live in Vermont and was prepared for the cold.

I found a beautiful stealth campsite that come morning should have an amazing sunrise. I’m setting my alarm for 6:45 and hoping it’s not too foggy in the morning.

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 16
Location: Grassy Gap
Start/End Time: 8/5:30
Weather Conditions: Warm, then hot

I woke up this morning not to my alarm,  it to someone shouting, “Hey Road Soda we’re gonna keep walking!” outside my tent. Since no one camp near me last night it scared the piss out of me. Clearly whoever Rod Soda is, saw my tent as a person yelled and respond with, “OK,” and I heard him walk back down the hill. Then for about a half an hour I could hear yelling and giggling girls all down the trail. Ugh, not the way I wanted to start my morning.

I had a restless hour and a half more of sleep before my alarm went off for sunrise. And it did not disappoint. The sky was red, orange, and blue and I was incomplete awe. I’m so glad I decided to walk the extra 2 miles to this camp spot.

Also, as embarrassing as this is, I’m going to share it because it’s a real trail story and I want my journals to be at truthful as possible. In the middle of the night I had to pee. As a woman on the trail this is the worst because I can’t just pee in a bottle, and the female urination devices don’t work for me.

However, I had a heavy duty container from a freeze dried meal that zips shut, so I went for it. Everything was going great and I zipped up the bag when I was done…then I moved my knee and there was a wet spot. Clearly it didn’t go as well as a thought. Luckily it didn’t get in my sleeping bag. New sleep clothes and lots of baby wipes later and I was finally able to go back to sleep.

My goal was to do 12 miles today so I started off around 8 o’clock and headed for Wesser Bald and the fire tower there. Like all mornings it went by pretty quickly and before I knew it 3 miles was down and I had arrived. I ditched my pack at the base of the tower and climbed up. And you’ll never guess who was up there sleeping…Road Soda.

He was one of the group that stopped at cold Spring shelter the night before that were nice enough people but just not my people. He said he felt pretty bad about what happened when he saw my tent up on the bald earlier that morning. After chatting with him I couldn’t be upset as it wasn’t his fault because he wasn’t yelling. But those giggling girls are another story. I guess I’m just at the age where unnecessary giggling in the dark while other people are sleeping just isn’t amusing.

By this time it was getting hot and I was hoping that when I got to NOC they would have shorts because I just can’t handle this anymore. I’ve been hiking in my black leggings since the beginning and when it gets over 70° I feel like I’m overheating.

This is when the 7 mile downhill journey began. Sometimes it was slow going down and other times it was extremely steep. Extremely tall people definitely helped build this trail. My little legs just couldn’t handle some of the large steps so I had to sit down and scoot.

Around 2 o’clock I arrived at NOC and it wasn’t as cool as I thought it was going to be. I was able to get a pair of shorts, unfortunately they were $55. The team at NOC helped me order and print my Smoky Mountain National Park pass, so I’m ready to go in a few days! I grab some ice cream and an ice tea enjoy talking with a few hikers I hadn’t met before and headed on my way.

Three more miles uphill, mostly in the sun and I had arrived at Grassy Gap for the night. After I set up my tent and cook dinner I called Will on the phone to catch up with him and texted with Hoagie because will be meeting up in two days to take on the Smoky Mountains together! I’m so excited to be meeting up with her again and to have a buddy to go through the national park with. Will be hitting the 200 mile mark and the highest point on the AT together!

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 17
Wednesday , April 7, 2021
Location: Brown Fork Gap Shelter 
Start/End Time: 8/6
Weather Conditions: Hot and sunny

Today was my hardest day in the AT so far. In total I did 13.2 miles, which I’ve done more than before, but the terrain was the real challenge. In total I ascended approximately 2,750 feet and descended 2,500 feet. 

Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

To be honest not a lot happened today. And I’m exhausted so here is the cliff notes version of my day:

-I actually at breakfast today! I’m never hungry for breakfast, even at home, so this is pretty exciting!

-I connected with a lovely woman named Barbara who is slack packing the trail. She’s hiking with a friend and her husband is meeting them at road crossings with an RV. She helped me out today when the spring I was looking for was dry and gave me water at the road crossing.

-I pretty much hiked by myself today and listened to podcasts, audiobooks, and music.

-It was hard.

-I took lots of breaks

-I’m really tired

-I burned my tongue on a chicken flavored pasta side I made for dinner.

-I don’t actually have a plan for the Smokey’s because my service sucks and can’t contact anyone.

-Whatever, I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m going to bed.

Thursday, April 8, 2021
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina Day: 18
Location: Fontana Village Resort
Start/End Time: 7:45/2:30
Weather Conditions: Rain on and off then sunny

I got up early today to try and get into Fontana Village before the thunderstorm hit this afternoon.

The morning started off a little chilly, but I warmed up quickly. As for terrain, it was pretty smooth with a few rocky spots to start off with. When the uphill started around mile 3, so did the rocks and the rain. 

Mother Nature didn’t know what she wanted to do. It’s rained, it stopped. It was windy, it was sunny. It rained more, and then even more.

By the time I decided to put my rain pants on my legs were already wet, so I’m not exactly sure how much good they did, but as it started to cool off because of the wind I was happy I had them on.

I stupidly did my first 6 miles really fast which made the next 5 miles awful. My feet were throbbing and my bad knee (from an old roller derby injury) wasn’t feeling great either. Needless to say, the last 5 miles took a big longer.

Eventually, the rain stopped and through the trees I could see Fontana Dam! It was such a welcome sight. Then, as I descended further and further I started noticing more flowers and lots of green buds in the trees. Summer is coming everyone!

When I finally reached NC Route 28 I was definitely done walking. I dropped my pack  and sat on the grass for bit. Then someone in the parking lot told me there was a phone by the bathroom to call the Fontana Village Resort, where I was meeting Hoagie, for a ride. It only cost me $3 and the shuttle arrived in less than 5 minutes.

As I pulled up to the front of the hotel Hoagie was outside waiting for me! It was so nice to see her, it’s been at least a week. I gave her a big hug and went right to our room.

I met Brad, trail name Red Beard, who we’re sharing a room with, I was handed a beer, and I took a shower. I love a good shower beer so my day was made!

By then it was time for a late lunch/early dinner and we went to the restaurant. There we met up with 2 hikers I’ve met before, but for the life of me can’t remember their names. I had a pulled pork sandwich and a nice big salad. It hit the spot.

After going to the store for a resupply we headed back to the room to relax and get organized. We had a few more beers, hung out and talked about the Smokies. We can only stay at shelters per out thru-hiker permits, so we have to do 13 miles tomorrow. Most of which is uphill. It’s going to be another long day. Oh, and we’re supposed to get a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

Read the next chapter of my Appalachian Trail Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains

All my Appalachian Trail Journals

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